I am a tinkerer and enjoy having time to myself to work on little projects, learn new skills, read, do puzzles, etc. For lack of a better name, let’s call this “tinkering time”. As a result of my maximizer tendencies, I tack my tinkering time on to the end of the day after my wife goes to bed - usually around 22:30. Additionally, my daughter gets up every morning at 7:10 - this means I need to be up everyday at 7:10. That’s not a complaint, (I love hanging out with her) it just means I don’t have the option to sleep in.
This situation means that many nights that I startle awake some time after midnight and find myself sitting on the couch, laptop tipped-over on the cushion next to me. Then I begin the (now groggy) ritual of flossing, brushing and waking up my wife as try (unsuccessfully) to slip into bed unnoticed.
My routine was okay, but far from ideal. Then I read a blog post by my ol’ pal James Greig and was inspired to run an experiment on my tinkering schedule. After some reflection, I decided to move my tinkering time from the end of the day to the beginning. Specifically 5:30am. Having 100 tinker-minutes (5:30 - 7:10) every morning sounded fantastic.
Flash forward a few months and here are my major takeaways:
I think I got up at 5:30 once - it was usually more like 6. Why? I didn’t use an alarm. I’m an adult human with sleep cycles of ~90 minutes and I was going to bed around 22:30. So as far as my body was concerned, I was going to wake up at either 4:30 (4 cycles) or 6:00 (5 cycles). And if you don’t want to use an alarm, you have to listen to your body.
The start of the day feels like a way better time to do the stuff I usually do in my tinkering time. My brain isn’t burnt out from working & parenting all day. At six in the morning, it has never crossed my mind to Netflix and chill.
Biggest learning: Improved relationship with my wife! I realized that when my cherished tinkering time was at the end of the day I started to resent my wife if she didn’t go to bed at her usual time - which is awful. Also, I had forgotten how nice it is to climb into bed with someone who hasn’t been asleep for two hours already :)
I think this experiment has been a real winner and I want to continue with it indefinitely.
I’m currently in the middle of an involuntary experiment in which I go to bed at 20:00 and get up a 2:00. This is because my son has just come home after 3 months in the NICU (he was born 14 weeks early) and my wife and I are on shifts to watch him during the 12ish hours our daughter is asleep. I now have a lot more tinkering time, although it is interspersed with feedings, diaper changes and quick, “is he still breathing” checks ;)